Chinese labor

Yanshuo and its street restaurants
Li River

I remember my first visit to China in 1999.  Arriving at the airport in Beijing I noticed the odd way in which the luggage was deplaned and brought to the waiting passengers.  A long chain of Chinese people stretched from the airplane all the way to the baggage entry way, continued across the escalator and into the luggage area.  In the chute where the bags usually come out on one conveyor belt and then fall into the circular conveyor belt was not running.  Instead, actual human beings stood in the conveyor belt tunnel and handed the luggage up piece by piece to a waiting line of Chinese people who then loaded the luggage out on the floor in front of the passengers.  I had never seen anything like it.

I’ve flown through Beijing 2 or 3 times this year and things have changed much in 10 years.  The Beijing airport rivals most American airports and is better than many.  Flat screen television sets are common and the decor is 21st Century.  China is investing heavily in its infrastructure and if America doesn’t wake up, we will soon be passed.

In the meantime however, Chinese labor is abundant and cheap.  It seems that everywhere you go, if it can be done by hand, there is some Chinese person doing it.  In the photo below, a road is repaired, by hand, by two women (spraying tar) and two men (shovelling gravel).  The photo below is quite common, there are no leaf blowers in China.

While driving to the Li River, I came across a huge road construction project and sure enough, the massive stones were being dug, broken down and carried by people.  I thought of the hard work that was being done as we drove by as passive tourists.  I realized the fortune that I have and wished that more Americans could get outside of our wonderful country and see the world – to not only appreciate what we have, but to appreciate how others live despite the lack of wealth and or opportunities that we have.  I recently read that the Chinese government has resisted the push for tractors, bulldozers and other mechanical devices because the result of their use would be the unemployment of tens of millions of Chinese laborers.  The result might be social upheaval.

The first time I saw a road laborer wearing a suit I was surprised, but I saw it again and again…

Yes, Communism means equality.  This woman is getting her fair share of “equality.”

Forget a bulldozer or truck, to move massive stones, laborers will load them into carts and/or wheelbarrows like the one below.


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Yanshuo and its street restaurants
Li River

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